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Peterborough Regional Health Centre manager donates kidney to co-worker

Andrew Dodgson received a kidney from PRHC co-worker Ellen Watkins in 2018. They recently marked the one-year anniversary of the surgery.
Andrew Dodgson received a kidney from PRHC co-worker Ellen Watkins in 2018. They recently marked the one-year anniversary of the surgery. Peterborough Regional Health Centre

Two co-workers at Peterborough Regional Health Centre share more than a passion for health care after one donated a kidney to help the other.

On Friday the hospital released a video promoting organ donation in Ontario, highlighting a recent success story of two of its employees.

In 2017, Andrew Dodgson, unit manager of the B3/C3 inpatient units and recreation, was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulonephritis (FGSS) — a disease that causes scarring in the kidneys.

He underwent dialysis with sessions starting at 7:30 a.m. He attempted to work on his laptop for several hours while receiving treatment, followed by his regular workday.

“I’d then go home and be quite exhausted,” Dodgson, a registered nurse, said in the video. “I didn’t really feel like taking the dogs for a walk or playing hockey with the kids or doing much. By the end of the day, it was exhausting.”

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Dodgson spent a year on dialysis until he was approved for a kidney transplant.

And he didn’t have to go far to find his donor as co-worker Ellen Watkins volunteered to donate one of her kidneys.

READ MORE: Peterborough woman part of first paired living transplant with living donors in North America

Long before his diagnosis, Dodgson worked with Watkins, the hospital’s manager of quality and process improvement, on a number of projects. They became friends outside the hospital scene, sharing a bond of the outdoors, art and food. His daughter Miller also befriended Watkins’ daughter Olywn.

Watkins says she was inspired to help her friend, recalling when she was 10 years old and enduring her father’s diagnosis with leukemia. Miller was 10 at the time her father was undergoing dialysis, Watkins said.

“I could recall what it felt like to have a father who was sick and not well and living with his illness for 17 years was very hard,” said Watkins. “It changes you as a person.

“And it was in that moment that I realized why I must do this. If I have the opportunity to change the course of both Andrew’s life, (his wife) Christy’s life and most importantly Miller’s life, I would do everything that I could do to ensure this would happen.”

READ MORE: ‘You kind of have to find your own’ — Why Canadians are turning to Facebook to find kidney donors

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Dodgson said Watkins’s offer was overwhelming.

“To have someone offer you a kidney…I would say is almost unbelievable,” said Dodgson. “I think even my wife and I probably were in disbelief, didn’t want to accept it or make it real until it

On April 5, 2018, Dodgson underwent successful transplant surgery.

Last month, the families gathered to mark the one-year anniversary, which Dodgson called a landmark occasion.

“There is a risk of rejection but after one year, the percentage of rejection drops drastically,” he said.

The hospital reports that in Ontario, 793 living donor organs have been transplanted since 2016.

WATCH (March 2019): In world first, HIV-positive patient donates kidney

In world first, HIV-positive patient donates kidney
In world first, HIV-positive patient donates kidney

Add Watkins to the list.

“People ask me, ‘What if someone in your family needs an organ?’ and I said to them, ‘But nobody (in my family) needs an organ, but there’s someone who needs one right now,'” said Watkins. “And if I think back on my life and no one in my family ever needs an organ — and I lost out on an opportunity to help Andrew with his journey, his path and fulfilling his life — I would have missed an opportunity of a lifetime.

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“We all can do so much in many, many different ways.”

The bond between the pair and the families continues to grow.

“I say we are kidney cousins now,” said Miller.

To register to be a donor, visit the hospital’s website here.